F&M Classic: Robinson 8, South Rowan 7, 8 innings
By Ryan Bisesi
KANNAPOLIS — Being a hero once in a game is hard enough. South needed it from Matt Miller twice on Wednesday.
The left fielder hit the game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh with South down to its last out, but the heroics well ran dry in the eighth as Clemson commit Brody Koerner struck him out to end the game in a 8-7 loss to Jay M. Robinson in the F&M Bank High School Baseball Classic.
South never led in the game but the lead was never closer than in the final two innings when Miller approached the plate with the Raiders on the ropes.
The junior took advantage of a 2-0 count against Dillon Ashburn and turned on a fastball that ended up well over the left-field wall and past the Intimidators’ locker rooms. It was his fourth home run of the season and knotted the game at six.
“That was probably the best swing I’ve had in my life,” Miller said. “He threw me a fastball right down the middle.”
More gallant success in the clutch seemed likely for Miller after pulling ahead 3-0 in the count against Koerner with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Miller took a strike on the next pitch and proceeded to foul the next one back as the count went full.
“He threw me two good fastballs,” Miller said. “Then he threw me a 3-2 curveball, which I wasn’t expecting at all. That threw me off guard.”
Tyler Sciaudone doubled to start the eighth and went to third on an outfield error. He would score on a sacrifice fly by Blaine Hill to give the Bulldogs the lead for keeps. Pinch hitter Jake Glunt then hit a bloop single with two out to add an insurance run.
Robinson reliever Justin Lee got Parker Hubbard to ground out and Dylan Goodman to sit down on strikes to put the Raiders one out away from a loss again. Tyler Kowalczyk then singled, and Eric Tyler and Jacob Dietz followed with singles to load the bases. Koerner then came on and threw a wild pitch that Kowalczyk scored on before striking out Miller to end the game.
Extra innings may not have been necessary had South not run into two outs on the base paths in the seventh. Goodman was thrown out at home by Hill on the cutoff for the first out, a cardinal sin in the baseball world. One at-bat later, Dietz singled home Kowalczyk to pull within 6-4, but Tyler was thrown out attempting to advance to third.
South coach Thad Chrismon, who occupies the third base coaching box, took responsibility.
“It was a completely stupid move by me,” said Chrismon of sending Goodman home. “It was a total mistake and I apologized to the kids. Sometimes you screw up and I screwed up big time.”
Robinson starting pitcher Philip Perry one-hit the Raiders for the first four innings, before a double from Goodman got the Raiders going in the fifth. Daniel Mullis would score on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Tyler scored Goodman to make it 5-2.
“I thought the kids did a great job of battling back through all kinds of adversity,” Chrismon said.
After Miller’s homer tied it, Cory Deason hit a single to right and Preston Penninger coaxed a walk to put the winning run in scoring position. Lee got Jordan Kennerly to ground out to send it to extras.
NOTES: The Bulldogs beat South for the second time this season, having won 7-3 in Landis on March 14. South will play Mount Pleasant, a winner over East Rowan, tonight at 7.